The US Justice Department charged Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Monday with killing people with a weapon of mass destruction, in a prosecution that could put the accused terrorist in prison for life or send him to the death chamber.
The 19-year-old remained under guard in serious condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, with apparent gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs, and hand, according to an FBI affidavit filed to support the criminal complaint.
During his court appearance in his hospital room, Tsarnaev, though obviously injured, clearly responded to inquiries, nodding or mouthing yes or no, said a person familiar with the proceedings. Tsarnaev was made aware of the charges and their possible penalties, as well as his rights as a defendant.
Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler concluded Tsarnaev was “alert, mentally competent, and lucid” at the proceeding, according to a transcript.
The legal proceedings against Tsarnaev began the day the region paused, at 2:50 p.m., for a moment of silence exactly one week after the attacks and as mourners in Medford laid to rest Krystle M. Campbell, 29, who died in the blast.
On Monday afternoon, the FBI released the crime scene on Boylston Street to the city, which will inspect buildings for structural damage and take other steps before reopening the area to the public. Business owners and residents will be able to gain access to their properties on Tuesday, according to the mayor’s office.
The FBI affidavit released Monday also provided new details of the movement of Dzhokar Tsarnaev and his alleged coconspirator, his brother Tamerlan, 26, in the final minutes before the blasts, based on evidence recovered from security cameras in the area. Tamerlan was killed Friday in an early morning gunfight with police in Watertown.
The brothers are accused of detonating two crude bombs made from household pressure cookers on Boylston Street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. The twin blasts, 12 seconds apart, killed three people. The Boston Public Health Commission put the total number of injured from the attack at 282 Monday, based on data from 27 hospitals in the Greater Boston region, a dramatic increase from earlier estimates of about 170 injured.
Police believe the Tsarnaevs also killed MIT police Officer Sean Collier on Thursday night, before fleeing to Watertown. About 20 hours after the gunfight, police captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after a resident discovered the suspect hiding in a boat stored in a Watertown backyard. The boat was inside the 20-block perimeter officers had established for a door-to-door search, said a law enforcement official, an assertion that contradicts what law enforcement agencies previously told reporters.
That same official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Tsarnaev is “communicating” with FBI agents at the hospital. “He is having some back and forth with them,” the official said.
The Obama administration confirmed Monday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be tried in civilian courts, rejecting calls from several lawmakers to hold him as enemy combatant.
“The effective use of the criminal justice system has resulted in the interrogation, conviction, and detention of both US citizens and noncitizens for acts of terrorism committed inside the United States and around the world,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Monday.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a naturalized US citizen originally from the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. He came to the United States on April 12, 2002.
Lawyers on both sides of the case have been involved in some of the highest-profile terrorism cases in recent times. Tsarnaev will be prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys William Weinreb and Aloke Chakravarty. Chakravarty, of the antiterrorism unit, prosecuted Tarek Mehanna, the Sudbury man who was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to support Al Qaeda. He was sentenced in April 2012 to 17½ years in federal prison.
Miriam Conrad, the head public defender in Boston, will represent Tsarnaev. She represented Rezwan Ferdaus, the Ashland man charged with plotting to send a remote controlled-plane laced with explosives into the Pentagon. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison. She also represented shoe bomber Richard Reid, who was sentenced in 2002 to life in prison. Public defenders William Fick and Timothy Watkins were also assigned to the case.
The defense filed a motion Monday asking the court to appoint additional lawyers with experience in capital cases.Continued...